Essential ‘Toy Story’ Play Time

A sampling of our collection. No garbage bags in sight.
Image: Sarah Pinault

One of the things that all three of my children agree on, at ages four, seven, and ten, is that the Toy Story movies are all awesome. We even did a poll on GeekMom years back, and Toy Story was easily one of the highest placed franchises. It’s no wonder that my kids will happily sit together to watch any of these movies. In our family, watching any of these movies is far from a sedentary experience—bring out the toys! For my eldest son’s second birthday, way back in 2011, he received both a Woody doll and a Buzz doll. He carried these toys around everywhere he went and played with them as if his name was Andy. By the time we had our second child, the toys were still being vigorously played with. They were not ready to be hand-me-downs. When the littlest Pinault developed a love for Toy Story, of course, we ended up with two of each. Over the years, along came Jesse and Bullseye, a strawberry smelling Lotso, a Slinky Dog… you can see where I’m going with this.

For her fourth birthday this year, what did my daughter want? A kick-ass Bo Peep, of course. While this latest installment isn’t necessarily the overall favorite, my entire family is excited by the onslaught of Toy Story toys that appear in the wake of a new film. While they ooh and ah over Giggle McDimples and Duke Caboom (“Yes I Canada” is the new war cry in our house), it is still the old classics that they cling close to. Andy would be so proud.

There’s a wide variety on the market right now, of both classic characters and new. Along with a pocket-sized Giggle Mcdimples and the aforementioned Bo Peep, you can get a kit to build your own Forky. While I will always have a soft spot for our cuddly Mr. Pricklepants, my current favorite is the Buzz Lightyear Star Command Spaceship Playset.

Image: Mattel

Until this year our Toy Story play has been restricted to the characters, and it’s nice to have some scenery. The Spaceship looks just enough like the box in which Buzz originally arrived, with some extra features to add to the fun. The ship breaks down into several components, making it perfect for multiple kids to play with at the same time—always a bonus in our house. It has a detachable rocket pod, a command center, and a quad vehicle. This enables our household younglings to run missions together or play separately. The accessories on each section are fully detachable. They are also interchangeable and can be re-attached to other sections to maximize play. Admittedly, this does not help in avoiding the arguments over sharing. Neither does the Buzz figure that comes with the set. The set, of course, only comes with one Buzz, and there is to be much arguing over who gets to be Buzz. The scale is such that it isn’t interactive with our existing collection of toys, though there are others to scale figures available if you want to go all in. For our house we’ve gone for a “honey, I shrunk the spaceship” approach.

The vehicle here is the meat and potatoes, while Buzz is an accessory. While he does glow in the dark, he lacks a working laser, helmet, and wings. He can also be a little tricky to get situated in the vehicle. However, the toy, much like my own children, does not stay seated for long. The glow in the dark feature is always a big winner with my kids, and this is no exception. It takes about 60 seconds of exposure to get a decent light going, but it is always worth the wait. This feature alone serves to capture some of the joy of the initial movie and toys. I am waiting for the inevitable questions of which other parts of the ship we can paint with our glow in the dark paint. I am not sure what my answer will be.

There are some pretty standard light and sound effects on this toy, mostly in the cockpit. Neither too loud nor too annoying. In general, we try to leave the noisy toys to the grandparents, but Toy Story has been our one exception over the years, thanks to the dulcet tones of Tom Hanks and Tim Allen. For weaponry, this toy does bypass standard Buzz Lightyear “lasers,” opting instead for projectiles that shoot out from either side of the ship. These missiles are soon lost, and not lamented by parents everywhere!

The age range recommendations on this toy are three through six, but in our house, the excitement level only increases with age. My fifth grader is still quite into playing with these toys, and this is a great gift for any kid currently in pre-school or elementary school. There is no assembly required, though there’s plenty of optional re-assembly. There are stickers to be placed, which is unfortunate. However, the accessories do store neatly inside when the ship is not being played with, and self-storage is a huge bonus. This also makes it a great bring-along toy for any upcoming road trips, despite the overall size. This toy set is altogether pleasing to both parents and kids alike. It has an MSRP of $79.99 (plus the cost of three AA batteries), so it’s no mere stocking stuffer, but the cost is on par with previous toys from this franchise, and the quality is as high as you would expect.

I would like to see some kind of Woody’s Round-Up play set in future collections; that would be the perfect accompaniment to Buzz’s ship. While I wait for that, I’m off to infinity and beyond.

Review materials for the Buzz Lightyear Star Command Spaceship provided by Mattel. All other Toy Story toys seen in this post have been owned and loved for many years.

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